Next to electricity & water, having a reliable internet provider in Germany is probably the most important utility at home. It defines our work life, our entertainment & it connects us with family & friends back home.
Setting up an German internet line can however be a arduous process. Germany is simply not very good at it. At the end of this post, you will know how the process looks like, which providers you should consider & how to get a temporary connection until yours is settled. A little research can go a long way on this topic.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.
Comparing the best internet providers in Germany
It’s a complicated market out there with a wealth of providers & plans. You compare internet plans with services such Preisvergleich.de or Check24 for your location. This website allows you to get the cheapest plan for your needs. Just enter your postal code here or there to verify your DSL/cable availability. and pick a plan among the ones offered to have internet in Germany. Here are some keywords to filter through them:
- Laufzeit or Mindestvertragslaufzeit: Commitment terms of the contract. Usually in 24, 12 or 1 month cycles.
- Telefon-Flatrate: This option includes a phone line with unlimited calls, sometimes also towards international numbers (Auslands-Flatrate).
- Fernsehen: this option includes IPTV, to get TV service through your internet line too. It sometimes include access to international channels.
- Vorwahl: Local phone area code (eg: 030 for Berlin) this field is relevant to show regional providers & if you have access to cable too. If you don’t know what your area code is, you can use this website.
Comparing is sometimes complex. In an effort to cut through noise & make things simple for you, here are some recommendations of what we think are the best internet providers in Germany.
Best starter option for most
1&1: Currently offering one of the best internet connection in Germany, 1&1 has also reasonable ranges of prices and steady network performance up to 50Mbits/sec. The router provided with any internet connection is quite good. It has plans with no minimum contract duration too.
Their basic offer (DSL Flex 16) is 16Mbits/sec for 29,99€.
Best premium service
Telekom (Deutsche Telekom): The historical internet service provider in Germany is running under the name “T-home”. It is often considered providing the best service quality and the best customer service. It is also a bit more costly to get internet in Germany through them. There is a 2 year contract attached.
The basic offer starts (Magenta Zuhause XS) at 16Mbits/sec for 29,95€
Best option via cable
Vodafone: The British company also has offers with complete packages (Phone, TV and internet) starting as cheap as 27,90€. Its network is however not as extensive as the other service providers. There is a 2 year contract attached.
It also offers interesting packages with mobile plans for 29,99€
Internet for temporary stays in Germany
If you stay in Germany for only a few weeks or a few months, you should look for the keyword “Ohne Mindestlaufzeit” or “Ohne Mindestvertragslaufzeit” when looking at the different offers. This translates to “no minimum duration”. It means that you don’t commit to a yearly contract and you can cancel your contract at anytime. There is a little trick though; usually the cancellation notice time is 3 months, so make sure to let your German internet provider know in good enough time.
If you are staying in country for under a month, the best solution might be to turn to prepaid SIM cards with generous data plans or so called”surf sticks” that let you know browse the internet via a USB dongle:
- Vodafone CallYa – 20€ : 4 weeks commitment with 15GB of data and unlimited phone calls & sms in Germany.
- O2 Loop – 14,99€ : no time commitment with 15GB of data and 200 Min/SMS (or free to o2 numbers) in Germany.
- Blau Allnet L – 17,99€ : no time commitment with 12 GB of data and unlimited phone call & sms to Germany.
- Edeka Mobil 14,95€: no time commitment with 5GB of data.
Having internet access until your line is activated
It takes sometimes weeks until a technician comes into your building to open a line. If you are working or studying from home, this can quickly become a stressful situation. Here are some tips to help until the situation is resolved:
- Hotspots: They are public access points put in place by ISPs, mostly in larger cities. There are several millions of them operated by Telekom & Vodafone across the country. There is a chance you could have access to one of them in your home. You can buy a pass at a reasonable price (25-30€/month) from each provider to get unlimited access to them. Remember however that since those are public access points, there is a potential intrusion risk from other users. You can use a VPN in Germany to protect your connection in this case.
- 5G wifi routers & surf sticks: those are a bit on the pricey hands & can be fairly limited in bandwidth or data, but since it relies of mobile network, it’s pretty much a plug & play situation. Make sure that they don’t come with a long contract commitment. That was we described just above.
- Coworking spaces: For freelancers in urgent need of an internet connection, they can be a life savior. It’s also a great way to get out of the home to work. Here is a list of coworking spaces in Berlin.
- Public librairies: For students & professionals alike, public librairies & university librairies provide a quite haven. Best of all: connection is for free.
- Cafés: a less desirable option but a good temporary measure. Most cafés will have open WiFi for customers. Some of them also design their spaces for people to come with their laptops. You can use this website to find spaces that provide quiet comfy spots.
Internet line setup process in Germany
The process is the same, regardless of your internet provider in Germany:
- Find the offer that you’d like to have
- Enter your address on their website to check for available speeds in your building
- Enter your personal information
- Wait for contract confirmation
- Receive your modems – Wifi Routers
- Wait for a Deutsche Telekom technician to open your line (several days or several weeks)
Fairly often, you will need to pay for a one-time fee for the router or other equipment being provided, and fees for processing your contract to eventually open your contract with a German internet provider.
What you should know as a consumer in Germany
How much internet really costs
Beyond the monthly fee (ranging from 15€ for low DSL speeds to 70€+ for a fiberglass line), there are some things to keep in mind:
- There are fees involved with the router: For some reason, the costs of the router is billed separately from the line itself. As a result, the price shown on banners is often lower than the actual cost. Expect anything between 2€ & 8€.
- There are fees involved with activating the line: whenever a technician needs to physically enter your building, your German ISP will probably bill you for it, unless there is a special offer. That’s usually around 60€.
- Initial prices offer differ from the actual one: you know that trick. “Pay 0€ for 6 months, and then 50€/ month after that”. Although those offers seem attractive, it’s just way to spread the pain differently for you as a consumer. The total contract price is often the same or even higher than in regular contracts.
You have rights you can enforce
- You can pay less or terminate your contract is the advertised speed is not reached. The German Telecommunication acts entitles you to a discount if you see a deviation over a period of several days. In order to enforce this, you will need to use the official app provided by the German Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur). It should include 20 tests on two consecutive days, spread as ten tests each day. According to the local consumer protection organization, deviations from contractual agreements impact 50% of internet users in the country.
Here is a template you can use to report low internet speed to your provider. You need to include the official certificate from the app. If the provider doesn’t improve the situation after 14 says, you can then request for a discount or terminate your contract before of service failure.
- You can terminate your contract after the initial commitment term with a month notice. German internet providers used to lock customers in with yearly renewals. That’s not the case anymore. After the initial 12 or 24 month period, you can send in a termination notice. We show you how here after.
About the current state of internet in Germany
In a nutshell, Internet is not fast & not reliable compared to most European countries. German telecom players and the government did not make the right investment decisions 20 years ago. When fiber optic had been identified as the next way to connect the country, Telekom pretty much stalled because of costs reasons, arguing that they could provide up to to 50 Mbit/s on old-fashion copper lines. The German government went with it and that’s why we have an noncompetitive, slow connection, ranking at 25th place worldwide, right behind Slovakia and Macau. If you are interested, here is a deeper dive into this topic.
Nowadays, fiber optics (if at all) is set-up until your district’s “verteiler” (distributor box), from where copper lines are starting to go into your building. Only about 2% of the German population has access to fiber optics in their homes.
Even in middle of the German capital, actual download speed is only up to 16Mbit/s, and I insist on the “up to”, because advertised speeds are most of the time not reached.
Getting internet via cable means that data is going through cables originally meant for TV. It can be a good alternative as top speed is generally faster than than with DSL (copper lines). However, this technology has the drawback of being slow if many users share the bandwidth as once. It’s also not as common as DSL.
Relatively low competition between German internet providers
The market of internet in Germany is like in many countries. It’s an oligopoly where a few service providers are sharing between them most of the users. The overall quality of infrastructure is however relatively poor for one of strongest powers in the world. Expect a 30€ bill on average for a broad-brand connection at about 16Mbits/s. Internet service providers in Germany all offer the same range of prices for comparable offers, with little disruption or competition between providers unfortunately. Elements that will make a difference is often customer service and line setup speed.
Why it takes so long to open a line
One important thing to understand is the role of Deutsche Telekom in setting up your internet in Germany.
Deutsche Telekom was once owning the monopoly of the phone network, and in consequence of the infrastructure. The company is still responsible today for keeping most of the network up to date. That’s the reason why that even if you sign up with another internet provider in Germany than Deutsche Telekom, the company will still actually physically set your connection up if the network is its responsibility. (and charge you 69€ for opening a new line!).
However, this is changing slowly. More and more of the network is managed by other telecommunication companies.
How to cancel a contract with your German ISP
A 2021 update of the German telecommunication act (Telekommunikationsgesetz) plans for an initial commitment (usually 12 or 24 months) during which you cannot cancel the contract without penalty. At the end of this initial term, you may terminate your contract with a 1 month notice at any time.
If you leave the country for good, the German telecommunications act (§ 46 TKG Telekommunikationsgesetz) provides a special termination right for consumers. It plans for a 3 months notice from the end of the current month. In the past, providers have been reluctant to apply this rule, especially when moving to another EU country, on account of non-existent EU roaming charges. However, Telekom states that it’s possible, so is this consumer protection organisation.
To cancel your contract, send a notice in writing (preferably by post) to the customer service of your operator.
Best internet providers in Germany – FAQ
The German ISP market has plenty of offers to suite everyone. However, 1&1 is usually well regarded by newcomers & expats because there aren’t lot of strings attached. Vodafone is a good recommendation if you prefer cable technology. Telekom is seen as the most premium, quality-oriented provider out-there.
If a technician needs to come into your building to open a line, this can take anywhere between 10 days to 4 weeks. This is much shorter if you are taking over an old contract from somebody else.
While the rest of Europe bet on rolling out fiber optics from the 1990s on, German TelCo authorities decided to stick with copper lines for a long time. It only recently recognized the need for fiber glass for a modern infrastructure. This means that the pipes are too small for a good bandwidth in Germany. A relatively low competition on the ISP market is also not leading to innovation and cheaper prices for consumers.
You can cancel your contract with a month notice after your initial contract term. You can also cancel early if your internet speed is not consistent with the speed agreed in the contract. You can also cancel if you leave the country for good.